Ceuta, Spain

Friday, May 22, 2009

I wonder how many people would know that Spain actually has two little bits of Morocco to call its own? I certainly didn't. Melilla and Ceuta are Spanish Enclaves, headlands on the Mediterranean coast with military and trade importance. They're both heavily fortified to prevent illegal immigration, as in 2005, thousands of Moroccans tried to storm the border at Melilla and 6 people died. They're also both sore points between the Moroccan and Spanish governments.

Ceuta is also a popular point to cross the Straight of Gibraltar to mainland Spain, which is why we're here.

Leaving Chefchaoen I think we got conned one last time by an overly helpful chap trying to make sure we got on this bus. The money we paid for our ticket went to the right place, but I'm pretty sure the money we paid for our baggage went into his pocket.

We will not be missing the touts, beggars, faux-guides and souq merchants.

We left Chefchaoen at 10am and managed to secure a bus all the way to Fnideq, a town just one 1km on the Moroccan side of the "Frontera" border.

A short an inexpensive taxi to the Frontera, and we exit the taxi to be engulfed by touts trying to sell us border crossing "departure cards". While the cards are legitimate, they're also free at the crossing. These touts insist you NEED this card to get across. One guy was so persistent as we walked away. "HEY LADY! HEY LADY!" A police officer smiles, waving us through, and tells a tout to leave us alone.

The border itself is a bizzare mishmash of concrete barriers. Its about 100m long on the Moroccan side and about 30m of the Spanish side. On the Moroccan side you walk down the same lane as cars and buses, and then you hit the Spanish side and you have a footpath, a xray machine and a McDonalds!

Stepping into Ceuta is like stepping from a developing nation into a developed nation, which is exactly what it is. Ceuta is like any other city in Europe, clean, modern, friendly and easy. It was so refreshing to not be hassled. We walked straight onto a bus to the town centre and found our hostel without too much trouble (despite not a single communicable word transmitted). After checking in we found a cheap place to eat and grabbed a tasty sandwich (aaah sandwiches!) and I even had a beer! (Mmmmm Beer! First beer in about a month)

Next stop, ferry to Algiceras and then a bus to Malaga for the night. Then we regain another level of independance and collect our hire car.

Note: This post is rather late, by now we've had the car for nearly two weeks and are currently in Portugal. More photos and stories from our adventures coming soon. Sorry for the lack of updates!

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